News: LIFT 2020 Festival Programme Announced

LIFT, the leading London biennial festival of international theatre, has today announced the programme for June 2020 – its first under new Artistic Director/CEO Kris Nelson and Executive Director Stella Kanu.

In a time where we are redefining our relationships with the rest of the world, Kris and Stella present a line-up of daring, topical and compelling work which challenges and ruptures convention, sparking vital social and political conversations concerning communities across the country. LIFT 2020 brings together a myriad of voices from Kenya to Australia and Tottenham to Azerbaijan who will present extraordinary and ground-breaking experiences in a festival rich in ideas, unusual perspectives and exhilarating experiences right across the city.

Kris Nelson said: “In 2020, LIFT declares FACT & FANTASY as our theme. Giving audiences artistic and aesthetic experiences of FACTS – memoir, testimonials, theatre that’s ripped from the headlines and FANTASIES – unusual, sensorial, imaginative interpretations of the world we live in and could live in. We are delving into where action, hard truth and proof clash with shifting perceptions, the dissonance between fact and fiction and beautiful lies. Audiences will get opportunities to be playful with what they believe and want to believe in.”

Acts of telling and retelling stories, the fallibility of these accounts, and the impact this has on identity and our understanding of gender and power relationships are explored in The Argonauts, Is This a Room? and The Second Woman.

Ruth Wilson commented: “I am absolutely thrilled, and a little scared to be part of Nat Randall and Anna Breckon’s truly unique theatrical experience. I have a feeling that The Second Woman will challenge all norms of what it means to be actor and audience, to be performer and observer. And what better place to be breaking the mould, than at the Young Vic, in partnership with LIFT Festival. Please come share this weird and wonderful journey with me.”

Rebellious voices from London to Nairobi are brought to the forefront as their visions for what our community can be forms the heart of LIFT. Togetherness is celebrated in a night of revelry at Master Shipwrights House on the Thames, whilst our hospitality is put to the test with an outdoor interactive installation that passers-by are invited to help create.

The 2020 Festival marks the cap stone of the LIFT Tottenham project, which over the past five years has seen local schools, artists and young people collaborate with international artists and companies to produce critically acclaimed commissions that celebrate the spirit and heart of the borough. SESSION, a Tottenham Original project in collaboration with Still House, Steppaz and Empire Sounds, will return for LIFT 2020 following a national tour. New commission Balthazar’s Treasure: The Cocao Quest, a real-world adventure conceived and directed by digital artist and experience designer Imwen Eke in collaboration with The UpLIFTers – young people from two Tottenham based schools – will unearth the hidden history of the borough and its links to Balthazar Sanchez, the Moor who first brought chocolate to the UK.


Nat Randall and Anna Breckon
Performed by Ruth Wilson
UK Premiere
Young Vic Theatre, 19-20 June

One woman. 100 men. 24 hours.

Sitting at the intersection of performance, video and film, Nat Randall and Anna Breckon’s internationally acclaimed The Second Woman takes inspiration from the 1977 John Cassavetes film Opening Night. 100 different men are invited to appear opposite Ruth Wilson as ‘Virginia’ who performs the exact same scene again and again, for a full 24 hours.

An all-female-identifying and non-binary team capture and mix the action live from multiple cameras, in a piece of extraordinary theatre that shines a light on the nature of gender and power relationships.

In their first collaboration since 2014, LIFT co-produces with the Young Vic to bring an exciting new production of this internationally-acclaimed epic feat of endurance theatre and live cinema to London.

Co-produced by LIFT and the Young Vic. The Second Woman is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and originally supported by Next Wave 2016.

Tina Satter / Half Straddle
UK Premiere
Shoreditch Town Hall, 2-13 June

A true story, still unfolding.

June 3, 2017. A 25-year-old former Air Force linguist named Reality Winner is surprised at her home by the FBI, interrogated, and then charged with leaking evidence of Russian interference in our voting system. She’s currently serving time in jail.

In line with the event’s third anniversary this year, award-winning theatre maker Tina Satter’s Is This A Room uses official transcripts from the interrogation, to create a simmering real-life thriller, offering vital considerations of power, patriotism, and honour at this particularly loaded political moment.

Singled out among the top shows of 2019 by the New York Times and New York Magazine’s VULTURE, Is This A Room comes to London for an exclusive two-week run.

Presented by LIFT & Shoreditch Town Hall. Supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation.

Ben Duke of Lost Dog & Candoco
Armenia / Azerbaijan / Georgia / Ukraine / UK
World Premiere
Commissioned by the British Council
Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8-11 June

A dark, funny and surprising look at the effects of war, this dance theatre production from director/ choreographer Ben Duke, reimagines the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Told by a group of disabled and non-disabled performers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine, The Argonauts explores the temptation for revenge and how we build our individual and national identities through the stories we tell.

Crossing languages, genres and cultures, the performers’ retelling of this story of heroic stupidity and doomed love is interrupted by the more contemporary concerns of this particular cast. Their stories of occupation, discrimination, injustice and joy disrupt this familiar tale. We watch as they construct a new version of an old story, in which the mythical and the mundane overlap.

Southbank Centre in association with LIFT 2020 presents A Candoco Dance Company & Lost Dog co-production. Commissioned by British Council. This presentation is supported by Ukrainian Institute and Ukrainian Institute London.

Phia Ménard / Compagnie Non Nova
UK Premiere
Barbican Theatre, 16-17 & 19-20 June

Part sci-fi punk, part warrior, Athena determinedly attempts to build a flatpack cardboard Parthenon, using a pole, a roll of tape and a chainsaw, only to be thwarted by a deluge in this poetic, highly physical performance without words from French artist Phia Ménard.

Conceived as a response to the Greek financial crisis and the turbulent changes taking place across Europe, this visually arresting performance, that has its roots in performance and visual art, shows how quickly something can collapse creating visions of a society facing ruin.

Co-presented by the Barbican and LIFT. Produced by Compagnie Non Nova. Co-produced by documenta 14 – Kassel and Le Carré, Scène nationale et Centre d’Art contemporain du Château-Gontier. This presentation is supported by Institut Français and Institut français du Royaume-Uni as part of its EnScène! programme.

Sonia Hughes
UK Premiere
City of London – 17 June Carter Lane Gardens, 18 June Aldgate Square
Royal Docks, London – 20-21 June

In a bid to be a post-racial, global citizen, artist Sonia Hughes will bring her outdoor, interactive installation I Am From Reykjavik to London. Setting herself up in the City of London and the Royal Docks, London she’ll build a temporary dwelling. Passers-by can watch, take part, have a chat with her as she tests the limits of her and our hospitality.

Commissioned by LIFT, SPILL Festival and Jerwood Arts in partnership with Arctic Arts Festival (Norway), SPRING Performing Arts Festival (Netherlands) and ILT Festival (Denmark). Supported by City of London as part of their Believe! Faith, Freedom (and Football) season, the Royal Docks London team and LIFT’s Membership Programme.

The Nest Collective
World Premiere
Art Night, 20 June

Kenyan multidisciplinary arts collective The Nest Collective will create a series of powerfully evocative documentaries profiling feminist, queer and migration activists in London and Cape Town. Performed as a screening of short films, with interviews and interventions from The Nest and a series of special guests, The Feminine and the Foreign will depict the activists’ lives in a style that evoke memories, injustice, intimacy and solidarity through vibrant and fantasy-filled sounds and visuals.

This event takes place as part of Art Night, London’s all-night contemporary art festival, which celebrates five editions this summer and will bring LIFT and Art Night audiences together for the first time.

Commissioned by LIFT in partnership with the Institute for Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town and Art Night. Supported by British Council SSA Arts as part of FestivalConnect, British Council Festivals_in Motion, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and LIFT’s Membership Programme.

Malik Nashad Sharpe & Travis Alabanza
World Premiere
Master Shipwrights House, 13 June

Choreographer Malik Nashad Sharpe curates performances by British and international genre-pushing Black artists. Hosted by performance artist Travis Alabanza, The Night Shift offers dusk-till-dawn revelry in and around Master Shipwrights House, a historic Tudor mansion on the Thames, hidden in the heart of Deptford. Audiences will encounter exciting and leading artists from live art, performance, cabaret, music and DJ’s in an event full of surprises and artistic discoveries.

The Night Shift is a cooperation between LIFT and Goethe-Institut within the framework of the Echoes of the South Atlantic. Supported by the Master Shipwright’s House and LIFT’s Membership Programme. Thanks to Omega Events and Rockit Event Production. Echoes of the South Atlantic is a three-year international collaboration connecting artists, festivals, theatres, galleries, museums and more from Atlantic Africa, South America and Europe.

Imwen Eke (Writer – Director) & UpLIFTers
World Premiere
Starting at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, 27 June

Digital artist and experience designer Imwen Eke and the UpLIFTers will invite audiences to explore Tottenham-based treasure hunt Balthazar’s Treasure: The Cacao Quest! Balthazar Sanchez, a Spanish Moor and confectioner to Philip II of Spain, first brought Chocolate to the UK in the 1600’s. He settled in Tottenham and is one of the area’s long-lost treasures.

Combining live, interactive and digital elements audiences will tackle challenges, solve puzzles, untangle facts as they discover some of Tottenham’s hidden history in an attempt to find the key to the ultimate chocolate experience.

Balthazar’s Treasure is a LIFT Tottenham Commission. Conceived and directed by Imwen Eke a digital artist and experience designer The UpLIFTers are a collective of Tottenham young people working on a five-year contemporary art project formed, conceived and co-directed by Darren O’Donnell (Canada) with Alice Fleming (Australia). Presented in association with Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Downshills Park Café & Bruce Castle Museum.

Still House, Empire Sounds & Steppaz
A LIFT Tottenham Commission
Battersea Arts Centre, 30 June – 11 July

LIFT’s critically acclaimed commission returns to London for the 2020 festival following a UK tour. Performed inside for the first time in the Grand Hall at Battersea Arts Centre, SESSION is the explosive collaboration between Bristol-based performance company Still House, Tottenham-based Steppaz Performing Arts Academy and North London’s music production powerhouse Empire Sounds.

Part dance party, part gig and part social, the show is led by an ensemble of young dancers who move across hip hop, contemporary folk and Afrobeats, celebrating community, youth and belonging.

Co-commissioned by LIFT, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Bristol Old Vic Ferment, Pavilion Dance South West and Théâtre National de Bretagne. Produced by MAYK. SESSION is a LIFT Tottenham Commission, made in collaboration with artists and residents of Tottenham.

By Inua Ellams
Directed by Stella Odunlami
Nigeria / UK
First Glimpse
Bernie Grant Arts Centre, 6 June

Five strangers meet late one night. One has a blanket. They set up a picnic in the middle of road and piece together the past 24 hours of their lives.

Poet and playwright Inua Ellams found the lyrics Alcohol, City Lights and Slow Songs lurking in one of the songs on Drake’s second album Take Care (2011) and wondered what it might feel like to be a young person living in a city like London in the context of those words. In a workshop with 15 young people from Tottenham, Inua discovered ridiculous, tragic, poignant and hilarious encounters and his mellifluous moving response, melding the stories, will be shared on stage for the first time.

A first glimpse of a LIFT Tottenham Commission. Co-presented with Bernie Grant Arts Centre and produced by Fuel. Supported by Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust, The London Community Foundation, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and LIFT’s membership.


Nat Randall, Anna Breckon & Malik Nashad Sharpe
Young Vic Theatre, 4 June

Artists are invited to take a look at making work for theatre festivals in this event presented by YV:IDemystify, in partnership with LIFT. Nat Randall, Anna Breckon and Malik Nashad Sharpe will address how creators of work respond to festival contexts, how shows are proposed and developed within these, how originators of work interact with the curated nature of festivals, and how they may subsequently take their work further.

This event is part of the YV:IDemystify series of free events for theatre makers to promote the sharing of best practice models, help open up new pathways in the industry and aid people in navigating their creative journeys.

Volodymyr Sheiko & Maria Montague
Rambert, 11 June

Over the last few years Ukraine has undergone a remarkable grassroots renaissance in culture, and there is eagerness among a new generation of artists to build international partnerships.

Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute (Kyiv, Ukraine), will discuss some of the country’s most exciting arts projects and will present the Institute’s programmes for international collaborations. Maria Montague of Night Train Theatre Company and Ukrainian Institute London will share her experience of co-producing an international theatre festival in Kharkiv.

LIFT and the Roundhouse’s Last Word Festival are joining forces. Uniting LIFT’s exploration of Fact & Fantasy with The Last Word’s celebration of inclusivity and community to present two crossover events that are urgent and engaging, bringing together followers of contemporary performance and spoken word.

Season Butler
Roundhouse, 5 June

Artist, writer, activist and academic Season Butler wants people to write the future. In this workshop, she will use fiction writing as a tool for activism, dreaming up possibilities for the future.

Jacqui Beckford & Raymond Antrobus
Roundhouse, 17 June

In a discussion that revolves around creative practises and processes, translation, collaboration and creativity in spoken, written and sign language, British Sign Language interpreter and translator Jacqui Beckford and award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus discuss their personal and professional journeys so far.

This event will be BSL interpreted – Interpreter to be announced.

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